John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's both an unsettling illusion and massive movie spoiler.
(Spoiler alert: This sculpture is itself a huge movie spoiler.)
To those who've seen the 1969 Michael Caine film, The Italian Job, this public sculpture will be instantly familiar: a bus seesawing on the edge of a precipice, poised for an unresolved date with salvation or smashing destruction.
And of course it was this memorable predicament—which has had people guessing over the years how to escape it—that inspired Robert Wilson's piece, which resides on a ledge of the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong. Titled "Hang On A Minute Lads ... I've Got A Great Idea" after Caine's final line, the 40-foot-long faux bus rocks back and forth on hydraulics. It's an unsettling spectacle, and one that no doubt has inspired at least a couple frantic 999 calls.
The sculpture commemorates the Peninsula's recent partnership with Britain's Royal Academy of Arts. The hotel explains more:
Teetering on the parapet of The Peninsula's 7th floor Sun Terrace, the work—a replica of a twin-axel Harrington Legionnaire coach from the classic 1969 British heist caper, The Italian Job—appears as if precariously balancing off the hotel's legendary façade. Showing to the public from 12 March to 8 April, this groundbreaking work contributes to the international dialogue about how art can be presented within the fabric of cities.
Haven't watched this classic? Excerpted below is the final scene (stick around for the great Quincy Jones' jam):